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Letter to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Military Affairs on Army Manpower Requirements.

August 27, 1945


It occurs to me that it would be helpful to your committee in planning its legislative program to have my views on the matters which will be under your consideration. As you know, coincident with Japan's acceptance of our surrender terms, two important steps were taken to adjust Army manpower requirements: A world-wide campaign to obtain the maximum number of volunteers was initiated, and Selective Service calls were reduced from 80,000 to 50,000 men a month.

The first of these steps will require legislative assistance. Present laws place a ceiling of 280,000 on the number of enlistments which can be accepted; only men now in the service or those who have been discharged for less than 90 days can be enlisted directly; and there are some legal uncertainties regarding reenlistment bonuses, grades, mustering-out pay and other benefits under the G-I Bill of Rights. These matters should be clarified as rapidly as may be to the end that there will be no legal impediments to the maximum procurement of volunteers. In addition the Congress will wish to consider what more can be done in the way of furnishing inducements which will stimulate voluntary enlistments. The more men who can be secured by this means, the fewer it will be necessary to induct into or continue in the service.

The continuance of inductions through the medium of Selective Service will be one of your most critical problems. From many standpoints, I wish it were possible for me to recommend that the drafting of men be stopped altogether and at once. But, sharing the deep feeling of our people that those veterans who have given long and arduous service must be returned to their homes with all possible speed and with the certainty that world conditions will require us during the transition period to settled peace to maintain a real measure of our military strength, I cannot so recommend. The situation in the Pacific continues to have many elements of danger, and war-torn and disorganized Europe is facing a difficult winter season with scarcities of food, fuel and clothing. Our occupation forces in those areas must be held at safe levels, determined largely by General MacArthur and General Eisenbower who are on the ground and familiar with the situation. We cannot stop the certain in-flow of replacements into the armed forces, without necessitating prolonged service of veteran soldiers.

My great concern at the present moment is for those now in the armed forces whose war service has separated them from their homes and loved ones for extended periods. An unforgivable discrimination would result, if we should favor those who have had no military service by suspending their induction at the cost of requiring further sacrifice from those who have already done their part.

Based on the present unsettled conditions in Europe, the uncertainties of the Pacific, and decent consideration for all the men in the service who have borne the burden of the past years, I have approved continuation of inductions until such time as the Congress shall establish the broad national policies to govern full demobilization, occupation and world security.

While the question of how to provide adequate military forces and at the same time to restore veterans to their homes is a matter for determination by the Congress, it appears clear to me that we dare not depend solely on volunteers. The continuation of inductions through Selective Service at a rate depending upon the rate of volunteering is the only safe and acceptable solution. However, it is my view that these inductions should be for a two year period unless sooner discharged and should consist of men in the age group 18 to 25 inclusive.

It is my firm conviction, which I believe is shared by the majority in this country, that war veterans who do not volunteer to remain in the service should be discharged as soon as it is practicable to do so. This means that we must start at once to obtain personnel exclusive of these veterans to carry the burden of the occupational period. Volunteers should be procured in maximum numbers and the remainder of whatever strength is required obtained by post V-J Day inductions through Selective Service.

The War Department is stressing the procurement of volunteers to the utmost. How many will be obtained is problematical but from past experience and the most recent studies 300,000 appears to be the maximum to be expected by July next. Inductions, if continued at the present reduced rate, for the same period would produce approximately 500,000 men. On this basis there will be not more than 800,000 non-veterans and volunteers in the army next July.

It is certain that 800,000 men will be insufficient to meet over-all requirements next July. General Eisenhower's and General MacArthur's estimates alone total 1,200,000, exclusive of the numbers required for supporting troops in the United States and other areas. The difference between the 800,000 non-veterans and volunteers and whatever total strength is required must be made up by holding additional numbers of veterans in the service. It is evident that any curtailment in the number of Selective Service replacements will only accentuate the number of veterans who must be retained in the service. While it will not be possible to discharge all of them even under the proposed system as soon as we would like, we will have the satisfaction of knowing that the program will give them the best opportunity we can provide for their early return to civil life.

One other matter which deserves the immediate consideration of your Committee is the question of when the "emergency" or "war" should be officially terminated. I must emphasize the danger that lies in a too early unqualified formal termination. Tragic conditions would result if we were to allow the period of military service to expire by operation of law while a substantial portion of our forces had not yet been returned from overseas. I am confident that the Congress will take no action which would place the armed forces in such a position.


Note: This is the text of identical letters addressed to the Honorable Elbert D. Thomas and to the Honorable Andrew J. May, Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Military Affairs, respectively.

Harry S. Truman, Letter to the Chairmen of the Senate and House Committees on Military Affairs on Army Manpower Requirements. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project https://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/node/231606

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